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Ovid: Ecotourism in Scandinavia: Lessons in Theory and Practice

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Editors: Gossling, S.; Hultman, J. Title: Ecotourism in Scandinavia: Lessons in Theory and Practice, 1st Edition Copyright 2006 CABI Publishing
> Table of Contents > 13 - Eco-traveller or Eco-site Visitor?

13 Eco-traveller or Eco-site Visitor?


Thor Flognfeldt Jun. Department of Tourism, University College, Lillehammer, Norway

Route or Site Dimensions of Tourism and Sustainability


Many studies of tourism are focused more or less only on what is happening at a site or in a region. There are strong reasons for a more inclusive total trip focus when studying behaviour of segments of visitors and their contribution to changes in the environment (Flognfeldt, 1997, 2005b). In the context of ecotourism, one clarification seems necessary: if ecotourism should be regarded as the solution to make the world more sustainable, tourism researchers should start to distinguish between eco-travellers and ecosite visitors. Ecotourism should then include the whole trip, both the visited site or destinations and the travelled route to and from that site. Studies of tourist behaviour at a single site or destination could then be labelled eco-site studies. Two different geographical study fields of tourism, destination focus and total trip focus, will be an important background for this chapter, as well as showing some travel and destination behaviour patterns of different kinds. Models for trip-focused studies are discussed in depth in Flognfeldt (2005a), inspired by many sources, including Fridgen (1984, p. 33): Travel to and from the destination site and experiences associated with these phases have been ignored. A better understanding of travel behaviour could assist in the marketing of secondary trips, staging areas, and minor attractions located in the vicinity of larger, more popular destinations. Such relationships require the cooperation of the psychologist and the tourist professional. Travelers, not laboratory subjects, must be studied in transit, at hotels, in their homes, and on site. The tourist professional can make this integrative work possible by being sensitive to the importance and implications of this type of research. A tourism destination might be designed to suit most challenges of sustainability, but what takes place on the travelled routes to and from this P.144 destination could often be at the opposite end of the sustainability spectrum. An example would be how a ski resort could be designed in accordance with criteria of sustainability but still be accessible only by private cars utilized by two or three passengers. This means that the local product from a destination point of view might be described as sustainable even if the travelling patterns of most visitors could not be described as sustainable tourism in a complete travel circuit sense. Although the tourist's behaviour during a limited site visit might not sit well with the concept of ecotourism, the rest of that tourist's travelling route might be described as sustainable. Some urban visits fall into this category, as well as some activities like heli-skiing and jet-skiing. Thus, a more holistic travel pattern approach and several total trip travel behaviour studies are needed in analyses of sustainability and tourism. When the term ecotourists is used to describe a segment of visitors or visits without any remark about their behaviour during the rest of the trip, the concept of sustainability becomes more of a marketing slogan than a real concern for nature or the environment. Much of the Green tourism concepts developed by hotels and destinations use such slogans, since these do not include a trip focus. By focusing more on the total trip or on the total experience affiliated to the trip, and even on the vocabulary researchers are using, the research would be more inclusive.

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Many researchers use ecotourism more or less synonymously with some types of nature-based tourism. When that is the case, however, the level of man-made environment in the product becomes important. This means that visits close to pristine nature environments are often labelled ecotourism, regardless of how the tourist travels to the area, while visits to man-made venues based on nature-like alpine ski resorts are regarded as non-sustainable forms of tourism. Also, the concept of sustainability in the context of tourism is underdeveloped. McCool and Moisey (2001), however, introduce some ways of viewing sustainability: 1. Sustaining tourism: how to maintain tourism industry businesses in the longer term. This is a broad view more or less showing that a tourism industry or site should not be developed in a way that creates problems for its own existence. The problem of this view is the definition of how wide an area should be taken into account: the whole trip area, parts of the trip area or just the visited site? 2. Sustainable tourism: a kinder, gentler form of tourism that is generally small in scale, sensitive to cultural and environmental impacts and respects the involvement of local people in policy discussions. For some this means trying to reduce the worst effects caused by tourism, for others prevention of development at sites not suitable for some types of tourism. 3. What should tourism sustain? Tourism as a tool for development. Is solely actual behaviour at the visiting site important, or should problems caused along the travelled routes also be taken into account (Flognfeldt, 1997)? In the early stages of building recreation activities in Scandinavia a hundred years ago, development of transport to give easy mass access to P.145 nature, both coastally and in forests, was prioritized. Thus, electrical tramways like the Holmenkollbanen in Oslo and coastal shipping routes were extended to include embarkation points in the wilderness of that time. This means that short recreational trips for most people living in Oslo became both ecologically and economically sustainable. What consequences might different uses of definitions of sustainability in tourism and travel studies have? If this discussion includes some practical cases of development at destinations, tour operation and marketing, researchers might be able to regard tourist trips as more complex events, instead of just focusing on case studies on single sites. One of the few studies trying to measure the transport effects of tourism was by Hyer (2000), who argued that since there is no tourism without travel at least in Norway tourism is a major source of serious environment [sic] problems. Therefore, the notion of sustainable tourism, according to Hyer (2000), should be linked to a concept of sustainable mobility. Quoting an Austrian study by Lange (1995), he indicated that 40-60% of environmental loads were linked to the transport of tourists between home and destination. For some ecotourism destinations in northern Scandinavia this is probably an underestimation. Figure 13.1 shows the main flows of ecotourism, or care-based, traffic to the Scandinavian countries.

Sample Cases
The starting point of this section will be to illustrate some typical travel behaviour patterns in rural Scandinavia primarily Norwegian cases. Norway is a large, long and sparsely populated country. Thus, transport by air, road, rail or sea plays an important role in the composition of tourism products. For most tourism in Norway, transportation is so important that almost all tourism products must be regarded as non-ecotourism if a complete trip focus is to be used. The cases described here are chosen to show what happens when the focus is changed from an at site only to a complete trip perspective.

The coach trip to North Cape: a quick drive through most areas
Since the start of the Hurtigruten (The Coastal Voyage) in 1893, a visit to the symbolic northernmost site in Europe has become the ultimate destination for many subarctic visitors (Hurtigruten, 2005). Someone has described the North Cape trip as one of the world's most famous tourism anticlimaxes (unknown author). The reasons for travelling to the far North are not the most interesting part of this section, but

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such long trips to a sacred attraction provide a good example to demonstrate the differences between eco-sites and eco-trips. The coach tour through all Norway (or in addition partly through P.146 Sweden and Finland) up to the North Cape has a long tradition. Slogans like Norway the land of the Midnight Sun dominated the early branding of Norwegian tourism. Usually these trips included long daily transport distances, short visits to a limited set of attractions along the route, overnight stays in chosen hotels with fixed meals and some non-detailed guiding.

Fig. 13.1. Patterns of care-based traffic to the green parts of Scandinavia.

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The sustainability discussion of these trips has until now been limited to the North Cape Plateau. Is the massive investment in restaurants, information centres and so on really sustainable? Should not a short stop there be limited to a free nature experience according to the image of the allmannsrett (Norwegian Law of Common Access to Nature)? To clarify this discussion about the site functions of North Cape as either a sacred part of nature or a tourism theme park, focus may be widened to include the trip to and from P.147 this attraction. That discussion is not possible within the context of ecotourism, since the long trip either by car, coach, aircraft or Hurtigruten (the Coastal Steamer) means that the limits of sustainability are transgressed. Every trip to the North Cape is an energy-consuming one, and a sustainability discussion should concentrate on finding suitable solutions to reduce these.

Trekking in the mountains and along the coast: Jotunheimen area and Hga Kusten Leden
Trekking or recreational walking has a long tradition in Scandinavian outdoor recreation. At an early stage Oslo (1898) built the electric tramway up to Holmenkollen to give people easy access to the large Oslomarka area. Later, in 1916, this was extended to Frognerseteren, and in 1934, another one was built to Sognsvann (Oslo Sporveier, 2005). These tramways gave access to nature, the ski-jump hill and made the slopes around the tramway available for exclusive housing developments. Organizations like Skiforeningen started developing a system of ski tracks that were designed also to be used as walking and riding paths during summer. The experienced mountain trekkers are often regarded (at least by themselves) as the ecotourists. But these trekkers are often also very frequent airborne travellers going to several continents and the use of, and payment for, local resources to help local communities become more economically sustainable is not always evident. Trekking in Jotunheimen is, from a destination point of view, a low-cost type of travel and it gives some contribution to the local economy. Also, the way accommodation is organized most often as mountain lodges or chalets owned by Den norske Turistforening (the Norwegian Tourism Association, DnT) means more leakages out of the local economy than if these dwelling units had been in local ownership. The impact on nature caused by trekkers, however, is small. In recent years DnT has shown an interest in helping local production by introducing slogans like shorttransported food. This could also include guided tours or local tour operation, but still most DnT activities in this sector are based on imported guides and tour organizers. Short-transported guides, i.e. local ones, should instead be introduced. Coastal hikes were more common than those on well-developed and signposted mountain tracks until the late 1970s. Local work following the Swedish Fysisk riksplan of 1971 (SOU, 1971, p. 75) started a new way of thinking about coastal nature as not simply a tourist resource, but also for hikers and nature lovers (Hga Kustenkommitten, 1974), and the report on the Future of dalen indicated a more active use of coastal resources for hiking and shorter walking tours (dalenkommitten, 1986). Since these coastal routes are much closer to local recreation amenities, which often have surplus capacities and, importantly, better developed collective transport networks, the negative impacts of further development would be lower than in marginal mountain areas. P.148

Access to ski resorts: the Hafjell/Kvitfjell area and previous Olympic venues
Alpine ski resorts are not often regarded as ecotourism venues. They are installations outside the outdoor recreation traditionalist's way of thinking. Such venues and the surrounding resorts use considerable energy resources both for slope preparation and for artificial snowmaking, as well as for heating the accommodation units. A large proportion of visitors today arrive in their own cars. By using the whole trip

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as a research unit, however, parts of this picture might be modified. Alpine resort development might be included in a more sustainable transport strategy, at least at some sites. Hafjell and Kvitfjell are two ski resorts that were built or developed for the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympics and are both located close to the national railway system. New temporary railway stations were also built for these Olympics, to be used at times of high demand. This meant that low-energy transport could be introduced. At Hafjell a project is now being launched based on the idea of reducing energy use drastically by utilizing a local mountain river both as water supply and as micro-hydropower producer. Instead of pumping water for snow production up from the valley, the water will be taken from the top of the venue. Perhaps a future energy consumption study will show that each alpine skier at Hafjell is using far less energy on the whole trip than ecotourists in the mountain areas do?

Second-home owners may be the biggest contributors to the local economy?


Ownership of second homes means frequent use. Some families have had second homes at the same site for more than four generations and thus regard themselves at least as semi-locals (Flognfeldt, 2002). Their behaviour at the site will usually be to aim to keep nature as pristine as possible. Other second-home owners will be investors primarily interested in the increasing value of their property, and will sell and move to another site if they have the opportunity to make a substantial profit. More than half of Norwegian households have access to a second home. Access means the possibility for non- or low-paid use at least one week annually. About 25 per cent of all accommodation used for holidays in 1998 was in second homes; for those staying in Norway during holidays the figure was 36 per cent (Statistisk Sentralbyr, 2005). Studies of second-home ownership and of their owners' use of the local environment shows that many cabin owners are as much interested in local sustainability issues as people living permanently in the community (Flognfeldt, 2006). Second-home owners often use local grocery stores and local craftsmen for services, and also participate to a large degree in discussions about further development of the local area. P.149

Hydroelectric power and tourism development


From the late 1960s until recently the discussion about further hydropower development in Scandinavia has been lively. Conservation and environmental groups have presented many arguments against further development in their own back yards. They have also, however, frequently stated that such developments would mean a threat to future tourism in those areas. But areas where such developments have occurred have in several cases been successful in developing a new and more sustainable tourism trade. The reasons for this are many, some rooted in Norwegian legacy, some in market changes and some in infrastructure as new roads have given tourists access to new areas. In Norway the best economic conditions, based on tax income, for local government are found in municipalities where hydropower production units or reservoirs are located. This is due to a system of taxation for power firms according to the location of water resources. Such electricity-producing municipalities are able to finance infrastructure for tourism development, including improved roads, tracks for skiing and walking, information centres and museums. Many new roads giving access to sites of natural beauty were originally built in the construction period. Since the 1980s the constructors have developed the skill of taking care of nature. This means, for example: (i) using natural stone walls along the road instead of concrete; or (ii) creating artificial thresholds in the rivers so that the levels remain the same but the currents are slower. But it also means investment in parking areas along roads, and information facilities.

Further Discussion of Ecotourism within a Total Trip Focus


The word ecotourism might be one of the most disputed ones in the whole tourism literature. It is often used either as a slogan or as a description of small-scale travel or visits without any real discussion of the

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total outcome by any measurement. Butler (1990) has presented a list of some of the major problems of tourism: 1. Ignorance of dimension, nature, power of tourism. In the theme of Butler's paper, seeing only what is happening within the borders of one's own area. 2. Lack of ability to determine the level of sustainable development, i.e. capacity. Studies of the real consequences of further capacity or visit development are seldom of high quality depending on the role of the investigator. 3. Lack of appreciation to manage tourism and control the development. If such efforts are made they might be limited to a single area, for example a national park, often without any benefit to the surrounding areas. 4. Lack of appreciation that tourism is dynamic, and causes change as well as response to change. New and better technical solutions might not be P.150 introduced due to the fact that responsibility for this belongs to another (governmental?) body. In Norway formal responsibility for national parks lies with the Ministry of Environment, but many other ministries have their own responsibilities on some part-issues. 5. Lack of agreement over levels of development, control and direction of tourism. Norway has no official tourism policy at the national level, meaning that each county and municipality must find their own way. Responsibility for different parts of national park management are, in addition, placed on different ministries. This is a too short list to give an answer to what sustainable tourism might be, and the geographical scale is not fully addressed in this discussion. One of the definitions discussed by Page and Dowling (2002) on responsible tourism was based on Hetzer (1965, quoted in Page and Dowling 2002): 1. Minimum environmental impacts at what area level site, region or nation or Scandinavia? In practice, this discussion is often restricted to very small areas. No-one cares about impacts taking place outside their own areas. 2. Minimum impacts on and maximum respect for host cultures. Even passing through areas might be regarded as a part of sustainability studies. The need for a highway passing through an area will not be included in the discussion of sustainability in, say, a mountain village 500 km farther north (Flognfeldt, 1997). 3. Maximum economic benefits to the host country's grass roots. Urban-based ecoorganizations do not always include local economic sustainability in their efforts. This is often described as a conflict between local and tradition-based harvesters and urban recreationists or purists (Kleiven, 2002). 4. Maximum recreational? satisfaction for participating tourists. This could be restricted by local ignorance of possibilities, but also by an unduly narrow understanding of sustainability. Such a set of definitions includes most of what happens during a visit to a site, or even in a country, but fails to include whole trip characteristics, as considered by Flognfeldt (1997).

Organized mass tourism to eco-sites: the real eco travel?


In addition to the confusion surrounding the term ecotourism, many authors distinguish between mass travel and alternative travel, or eco-travel, as the two extremes of a continuum. For the behaviour of each traveller this might be a relevant distinction. From the more holistic travel perspective presented in this chapter it might be completely wrong. For example, what would happen if all mass travellers became ecotourists? Butler and Waldbrooke (1991) have discussed the Tourism Opportunity Spectrum in the study of different types of trips. The cases they present show that this could be a way of clarifying such questions. The term ecotraveller is in a central way problematic. The most reliable and profound P.151 definitions will exclude all travel as contributing in any way to a more sustainable development. A

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subsidiary definition would read something along the lines of: a tourist utilizing existing routes with free capacity might be regarded as an ecotourist. His/her trip does not require any extended use of energy since the train, bus or airplane would have done the transportation work regardless of his/her presence. The classical Leiper (1979) model (Fig. 13.2) shows that the complete ecotourism pattern must take into account environmental impact resulting from the total travel from home and back again, and that the ecosite visit is merely a short stop or bypass trip somewhere in the tourist destination region. With regard to research methods and conceptualizations of sustainable tourism, this means that we cannot interview tourists on an isolated eco-site and regard them as ecotourists. Unless we acquire access to comprehensive data about the other elements of their trip it is not even meaningful to discuss ecotourism. This attempt to remove the ecotourism label from some segments of travelling to some specific destinations does not mean that destination management toward sustainability is a mistake or failure. Ecosite visits are important in creating, branding and marketing. Their aim is to influence the behaviour of visitors in a sustainable direction, and this is a very good intention. The Nordic countries have vast areas suitable for recreation in the vicinity of pristine environments. This type of tourism is valuable in its own right, and the means by which these visitors travel to and from these destinations should, however, be a central theme in future studies. The problem is that visitors were told they were ecotourists, but when their travel behaviour is examined e.g. air travel this actually imposed considerable environmental loads. Different tourism products have been labelled eco or sustainable without any real scientific investigation of how much each individual tourist really contributes to pollution and other kinds of environmental damage.

Towards a more sustainable Norwegian tourism?


One strategy for making sites and travel more sustainable is to focus upon possibilities for using excess capacity instead of developing new products. A number of important principles for total travel analysis and eco-site development would then emerge.

Fig. 13.2. The geographical elements of tourism (from Leiper, 1979).

P.152 Total route strategies: Better capacity management utilizing unused seats in a better way and seats could be translated as cars or dwelling units if other parts of the tourism products are to be studied. Stimulation of low-pollution travel revitalization of slow railroads (c.f. Canadian Rocky Mountaineer) and minimizing of single-passenger car traffic by price stimulation or even subsidies.

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Trying to change the uses of modes of transport stimulating use of rail/bus combinations. Eco-site strategies: Stimulation of longer stay per tourist the tendency today is shorter stays, e.g. extended weekend trips instead of two weeks' stay. Stimulation of more use of cold bed capacity both by making it easier for cabin owners to rent out their capacity by lowering income tax for such rentals and by adding popular activity products to the areas of second homes. Traditional green tourism strategies these are still important, even if they cannot be regarded as the single solution. All these encouragements can be part of a national tourism strategy but, in Norway, a country that has separated the responsibility for environmental issues from the stimulation of trade into separate ministries with close to no intercommunication, such a total tourism strategy is non-existent.

Conclusions
Work and research to create solutions to the challenges outlined in this chapter are today still in a premature stage. Even if Hyer (2000) and others have made a start, Norway is lacking comparative studies of different travel options. In part, this is due to the lack of precise concepts. My contribution is an expanded focus, from just viewing a narrow site or destination to the total trip. All parts of a trip should be examined and discussed if ecotourism is to become a meaningful concept. Studies on European travellers to Scandinavia illustrate these challenges. Even if such trips cannot be regarded as ecotourism, they are important for local communities and should therefore be encouraged. Those living in Scandinavia's marginal regions may be helped by the kind of tourism that: Generates areas of the local income by producing lower energy consumption products. Enhances the focus on valuable nature resources for future generations by allowing visitors to come. Result in a better collective supply of transport access, even for locals. Presents locals with job opportunities, at least seasonally. Thus, every attempt to develop and improve sites for eco-visits is P.153 important, but the claim that a stay at such a site equates to sustainable ecotourism is a marketing slogan.

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